Oxfam Australia - The Power of People Against Poverty
Oxfam is a world-wide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty. One person in three in the world lives in poverty. Oxfam is determined to change that world by mobilising the power of people against poverty. Donate today.
The onions from Steven Bare’s garden in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea bring more smiles than tears nowadays. He’s thrilled to harvest another bumper crop this year.
Steven and his wife Maria have turned their family’s fortunes around since taking part in an Oxfam project that helps rural farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their bulb onions.
Stephen Bare, with wife Maria Steven, and children *Wendy, *Magen (far right) and *Esther, sit on building materials they will construct their new house from, bought with onion profits. Photo: Tom Greenwood/OxfamNZ
The father of four daughters (pictured centre) says, “In the past, we never thought we could live this type of life, living well … simply because we had no money.
“We did not have good things that make up a house, like nice plates, cups, mattresses, and pillows and blankets… But when Oxfam came in, we were introduced to bulb onions and this product brought money, just enough for us to buy what we always wished for.”
Oxfam supported Steven and other local families to establish a profitable cash crop of onions, by providing fertillizer, seeds and a clean water supply. Now, the families are able to put their profits back into the business, keeping the business of growing onions sustainable.
Maria Stevens plants onion seeds in a nursery. Photo:Tom Greenwood/NZ
Steven says “in the past, we spent time in the gardens but not as seriously as we do today… Oxfam introduced the bulb onions, that helped us move forward. Oxfam funded the project, and with this came a lot of good things and change.
“We became more engaged with this work and it has affected our way of thinking and working. We now have set aims and goals. Oxfam gave us bulb onion seeds. With this, our lives have changed a lot.”
“This will be the third harvest. We distribute the income equally amongst the four families. With the second harvest’s sales, we put the money into school fees and invested more in bulb onions.”
Stephen Bare, with wife Maria Steven and daughter *Ruth with bags of onions ready to sell. Photo: Tom Greenwood/OxfamNZ
Thanks to you, business is booming for Steven and the other families in his farming co-op.
With a proud smile, he says, “This is life-changing.”
To read more about the life-changing work Oxfam does for PNG families like Steven’s, take a look at our country profile.
Thanks to the generous support of donors like you, Oxfam is able to work alongside local partners to help rural communities earn a decent income. We provide seeds, training and knowledge to improve the quality of their produce, and connect families with lucrative markets so they can earn more income to lead happy and sustainable lives.
Donate now to help more families like Steven’s to secure a better future.
Donate now to help mothers in Malawi protect their children from chronic malnutrition.
Eliza is a young mother faced with the challenge of trying to feed her baby enough nutritious food while also looking after her own health problems.
She’s a resilient survivor who always says that things are fine when she greets people, even when she is feeling awful. During her pregnancy, she was seriously ill and then shortly after delivery she was struck by malaria and wasn’t able to walk. The doctors have told her that she is anaemic and to get better she needs to eat a balanced and more nutritious diet. She agrees but she knows that she cannot heed their advice as there is barely enough money for maize, let alone vegetables. When the maize from the harvest runs out and there is no work to be found, Eliza goes to bed hungry. She doesn’t want this life for her child, she wants to see her eating nutritious food and getting a decent education so she can grow up healthy and follow a career of her choice.
“I have one baby so far. She is 7 months old. During my pregnancy with her I was frequently falling ill. Then after delivering the baby, my leg was giving me problems and I couldn’t walk because I developed malaria.
“After the pregnancy, things were hard, I became seriously ill with malaria. The malaria paralysed my legs, I couldn’t walk. They felt so numb and I was also feeling dizzy. I went to the hospital and I received some medication, at first there was a remarkable change but then after a while the illness came back. There is a private hospital close by, I went there and I was prescribed some drugs and then I finally improved. At the hospital they told me that I was anaemic, and that I needed to eat a balanced and more nutritious diet. I agreed, but I knew I could not adhere to the advice.
“It is a big challenge to get food with a variety of nutrients. We face challenges in getting food in this area because money is hard to come by. It is rare for us to add tomatoes to the nsima meal the way we did today, mostly we just prepare the nsima without adding anything and eat it.
“The maize that we grow is seasonal. When we run out of maize and we don’t have any money left, we have to go to bed on an empty stomach.
“After harvest time, we have enough food to last till October, but from November to January and onwards we will sometimes go to bed without anything in our stomach except when we can find work ploughing the fields for other people.
“I work for other people, but the work is scarce. Most of the work that people do is brick moulding and once in a while, harvesting work. The work is seasonal and when there are no more jobs, we have no money, not even enough to buy soap.
“During my pregnancy I was worried that I was not eating a good diet to give birth to a healthy baby.
“The health of the baby was okay and she was discharged without any problems. Then after a couple of months she developed malaria. I took her to hospital and to the traditional healers. She is fine now, but has an upset stomach. I’ve been told to buy her some mineral salts and I need some supplements but I don’t have enough money.
“The better hospital in Nkhoma is really far away and it costs 200 kwacha to go there by bus. It’s not easy to afford to get there and pay for the drugs. The District Hospital is closer and we walk there, but most of the time there will be no one there, so we walk back without receiving any help. When we are turned away from the hospital it is because there is no doctor and we come back empty handed.
“It was difficult to get enough food when I was growing up. I will not lie; my parents are poor. We would do our best to farm the land but buying fertiliser was a challenge, we could not get it. Come harvest time, we would get a poor harvest and food would be a problem for us till the next harvest season. My parents are poor.
“Food is a challenge because it’s very difficult for my parents to provide enough food for the family, they survive on doing jobs for other people. If they do not get those jobs then it means there will be no food in the home.
“My desire is to see my child not find herself in the situation that I am currently in, she should be different. I have lived a difficult life and I would not want her to go through the same. I want my child to go to school and be able to follow a career of her choice.
“My prayer and desire is to earn enough income, so I can send my child to school and provide her with nutritious food that will help her to grow up as a healthy child.
“When I am not feeling well, I try hard to go outside, I’ll do the dishes, fetch the water and do all the household chores and try not concentrate on my sickness. I only give positive response when I am greeting people, even when I am not feeling well. I don’t feel well most of the time, but I think that it would be unfair to highlight that on a daily basis and I don’t need my partner stressing over my continued sickness. I try to be strong despite not feeling well most of the time.
“When I was sick, I would go to the hospital. At the hospital I would share some of my challenges with the doctor as they examined me. The doctor advised me to take some time to rest when I felt ill and to only do my chores when I feel better. The advice from the doctor made me strong. In the same manner I believe forming a group to share experiences would also be of great help. There has never been such a group.
“My child eats the same thing every day. Mostly just nsima. Once in a while we get soya pieces, but we don’t eat much else.
“I would very much like to continue my education one day. It is my dream to become a nurse. Because I am a caring person concerned about health issues. And I would like to work at the hospital to help sick people.”
In its 2018 State of the Global Climate report, the World Meteorological Organization has delivered a blunt warning – such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and will intensify if urgent action isn’t taken against global warming.
Oxfam is working to get clean water and emergency food to thousands of people affected by Cyclone Idai, which has left a trail of tragedy and destruction. It is feared more than 1000 people have been killed across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and at least 2.6 million people have had their lives devastated. As the waters recede, responders are bracing for the spread of cholera and malaria.
Meanwhile, communities in northern Australia were bracing for two severe cyclones bearing down on the Northern Territory and Western Australia at the weekend – only the second time in recorded history that two category four cyclones have made landfall in Australia within 24 hours.
The second lesson is the utter dishonesty at the heart of the Federal Government’s increasingly desperate defence of its current climate policies and targets.
‘Responsible’ is the favourite adjective of Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor and their cohorts to justify their current and almost universally derided commitment to the Paris Agreement – to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
If all countries were to follow Australia’s current lead, we would be headed for a catastrophic 3°C of warming, inflicting unbelievable suffering on communities worldwide. So just how ‘responsible’ does the Government’s 2030 target seem now?
Labor’s alternative of a 45 per cent reduction by 2030, while an improvement, is likewise short of the shift we need. Only the Greens, which have just announced a plan to achieve net zero emissions no later than 2040 and to phase out coal exports, have a response that reflects the gravity of the climate crisis.
Oxfam is working at a camp in Mozambique, distributing life-saving supplies to survivors after Cyclone Idai. Image: Micas Mondlane/Oxfam
Whoever forms Government must also set about increasing Australia’s support to vulnerable communities from Africa to the Pacific with adapting to the escalating impacts of climate change and reducing the risk of disasters.
Nobody is pretending that decarbonisation of the economy will be easy. But there is the promise of new jobs, better health and long-term prosperity, if the right policies are implemented.
Australia has everything it needs to help reduce such suffering and lead the path to a cleaner, more sustainable future.
Today’s Federal Budget may be the last opportunity for the Government to show it has listened to the vast majority of Australians who want to see real leadership on climate change. At a minimum, we must see an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a long-term and large-scale investment in clean energy and greater support to the most vulnerable communities in Australia and our region. In short, a budget that will turn around Australia’s rising emissions and set us on a path to climate justice.
And in a few short weeks, we have the chance to choose the future we want. Let’s make this the climate election.
Oxfam Safe Families research on transforming harmful gender norms
Tanushree Soni (Oxfam), Tomoko Honda (Monash University), Sarah Homan (The Equality Institute), and Loksee Leung (The Equality Institute)
The Solomon Islands consists of over 900 tropical islands and atolls, spread across 28,400 square kilometres of the South Pacific. The country has a rich and complex political and cultural history. While diverse, Solomon Island cultures are predominantly patriarchal, with the Church along with kastom (traditional beliefs and practices) playing a key role in shaping local norms, attitudes, and behaviours. Traditionally, women are expected to be nurturing in their social roles, and are generally socialised to be domestic, respectful, and passive.
Sera*, Safe Families participant in Malaita District. Photo credit: Alice Plate/OxfamAUS.
Let’s Make our Families Safe – Safe Families
Enter the ‘Let’s Make our Families Safe’ (Safe Families) Program, an Australian aid initiative implemented by Oxfam on behalf of the Australian Government. This innovative, long-term community-mobilisation program is helping to ignite social change, actively engaging community members to understand the root causes of family and sexual violence and take action to address this problem. The program includes a variety of activities, including the establishment of community-based Family Violence Prevention Action Committees and the development of community-led action plans to prevent and respond to family violence.
Researching mechanisms of change – how Safe Families is making a difference?
With funding from SVRI through the SVRI WBG Development Marketplace Award 2017, Oxfam, The Equality Institute (EQI), and Monash University jointly designed and implemented research to investigate how Safe Families is shifting harmful gender norms and preventing family violence and intimate partner violence. The research will also examine factors which help or hinder the implementation of the program.
Why is this research important?
Research of this kind is critical. Despite having some of the highest rates of violence against women globally, currently there very little evidence in the Pacific on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at stopping violence against women before it starts. Building on early indications, which suggest that Safe Families’ strategies can be effective, this research will dive deeper into the specific elements of the intervention itself, examining whether and how sustained, collaborative approaches with local leaders and communities can shift harmful social norms related to gender inequality. This research will also contribute to the existing evidence around ‘what works’ to end violence against women and girls (VAWG). We hope this will influence broader violence-prevention activities in the Pacific region, and ultimately create lasting change.
Involving and empowering communities
Our research approach actively involved local participants and researchers. In May 2018, the team travelled to the Solomon Islands, where they recruited and trained ten local researchers in gender equality, the root causes of family violence, and research techniques. The local researchers played a key role in refining and adapting the research tools to the local context and translating the tools into Pijin. The research team then travelled to the offshore islands of Malaita and Temotu – where Safe Families was being implemented – and conducted interviews and focus group discussions with community members and program staff. In total, we collected over 70 hours of interview audio recording for analysis. The initial findings have been positive, indicating significant inroads to social transformation, on personal and community levels. One man, an Oxfam trained community engagement facilitator commented:
“When I joined this Safe Families program… I started to see [beneficial] changes gradually happening in my personal life… I changed my negative attitudes [related to harmful gender norms] and started to accept these changes. The more I got involved, the effects of my changing life also affected the people around me, which really helped to show other people that this is the kind of life we should live with one another in our communities. I realize that this is the course of life central to the purpose of the program.”
Jose with his child. Jose is a Safe Families participant & community member, in Malaita Province. Photo credit: Alice Plate/OxfamAUS.
What are we finding?
With the audio recordings translated and transcribed, the EQI and Monash University are now undertaking data analysis. Preliminary findings affirm that VAWG is driven by pervasive gender norms, such as the normalisation of violence and expectations that men have a right to control women. Interestingly, the research uncovered more complex and nuanced themes. For example, the concept of ‘bride price’, though not a driver of violence, is central to understanding the circumstances in which violence is justified. It is intricately tied to several other issues, such as what makes an ‘honourable’ woman or the specific conditions in which it is acceptable for a woman to leave a violent relationship. There are also early indications of some positive changes in knowledge and attitudes. VAWG has traditionally been considered a private issue, however, on encouraging community conversations about it, one woman in Malaita said that many now have an increased awareness.
“Yes of course, [talking] is a good thing, we need to know about it because before we were just ‘blind’ and didn’t know about anything. So, it’s good, and if some of the families don’t hear about it, we will tell them, ‘well this is what we learned in the session. Yes, it’s a good thing.”
The team at Monash University and the Equality Institute are still finalising their findings and exploring what these may mean for future programming in Safe Families. In the Solomon Islands, the program itself has entered a second phase of programming, up-scaling the work and will integrate the learnings from the study. The team is looking forward to finalising, publishing and presenting the findings in the coming months.
For more information about the Safe Families Program please contact Maud Mukova-Moses (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To find out more about the work and research EQI, Oxfam and Monash University are doing on promoting gender equality and preventing violence against women please check out our websites and follow us on Social Media.
Before our hand-woven bed spreads and throws make their way to the shelf of your nearest Oxfam Shop, they are loomed, dyed and handmade with love by this amazing team of artisans in Nepal.
Durga Maharjan (pictured fourth from left) has been weaving since childhood. But it wasn’t until she connected with our partner Association for Craft Producers (ACP) that she found her knack for business.
Durga’s workshop supplies the beautiful woven cloth that is then screen-printed and sewin into tablecloths made for Oxfam Shop. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamAUS
ACP offers design, marketing and management support for Nepali artisans — 85% of them women — so they can build their own businesses, making arts and crafts from home. Teaming up with ACP gave Durga the skills and confidence to set up her own workshop at home and teach her sisters how to weave.
“I convinced them that we had to learn,” Durga says, “and that this is our way of earning income … They didn’t know what thread was. I taught them here.”
Durga’s business is a real family affair. She says, “There are nine women that work here with me. All are my relatives, the wives of my brothers. Some are my own sisters, some are my brothers’ wives and some are my cousins’ wives.”
“They are all working well — and I am happy about that.”
Kathmandu, Nepal: A worker at Durga Maharjan’s weaving business. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamAUS
Durga chose not to get married and describes her freedom to make that choice as very liberating.
“I feel proud that I am able to provide employment to those who didn’t have work.” – Durga, Nepal
“Rather than looking for farm labour work, we can work together and be together. We can share our ups and downs of life, and also work. I am happy with that.”
From their little workshop in Kathmandu, the hardworking team makes beautiful yak blankets that are sold in Oxfam Shops. Durga says, “If it wasn’t for Oxfam, we wouldn’t get this work. So thank you very much for buying.”
“Because of them, we have been able to have two meals a day. Without work, we won’t be able to feed ourselves.”
Together we’re supporting thousands of women like Durga to set up their own businesses in Nepal. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamAUS
Cotton On has just announced they are strengthening their commitment to a living wage! Congratulations, Cotton On.
Cotton On has promised to develop a 5-year ‘roadmap’ to achieve living wages for the women who make their clothes — which will include milestones to aim for and a framework to keep track of their progress along the way. This is an amazing achievement.
It’s been a BIG fortnight for all of us who care about What She Makes. Cotton On are the latest brand, following CityChic, Kmart Australia and Target to announce their positive steps towards living wages for the women who make our clothes.
None of this could happen without our amazing community who care about What She Makes. Together, let’s continue to stand up for the women who make our clothes, so they no longer have to live in poverty.
Congratulations Kmart Australia and Target Australia for taking a huge step forward on living wages for the women who make our clothes!
The two major Australian brands have strengthened their commitment to a living wage by improving how they source their clothes from countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh — complete with clear milestones and timelines.
To celebrate, comedian Sammy J recorded a special thank you message to congratulate them on taking this huge step. Watch it below!
We also want to say a huge thank you to you — our supporters who care about What She Makes. Brands really do listen to us. And now that Wesfarmers-owned Kmart and Target have taken this bold step, other brands will hopefully follow their lead.
Together, let’s continue to pressure big brands to see who will be next!